As the founder and president of the Cambodian Health Professionals Association of America (CHPAA), Dr. Tan has led 10 consecutive annual missions to Cambodia until the covid-19 pandemic. After a 2 years hiatus, CHPAA will resume its mission to the one of impoverished province of Cambodia, Banteay Meanchey province. In the previous missions, our team consists of primary care physicians (ED, IM, FM, Peds), surgeons, OB-GYN, Ophthalmologists, pain management. We provided free medical, surgical, ophthalmological care with free medications to the disadvantaged people of Cambodia. As you know, Cambodia is one of the impoverished country of South East Asia. Cambodia, one of the most impoverished countries of South East Asia is just recovering from decades of war and destruction under the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouges. At the aftermath of the Killing Fields, only a handful of physicians have survived. Additionally, our missions included teaching component to the local Cambodian Medical Students with didactic lectures, as well as hands-on training and with the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) of the AAP to the local midwives and OB-GYN and Pediatricians. We also provide self-care health education and oral health education to the patients.
Our missions target the most underserved population of Cambodia, those who reside in the most remote area of the province, who would not otherwise receive the needed care. Services are provided on the first come first serve basis, regardless of race, social class or connection, religious and political affiliation. Each day, long lines of patients are formed early in the morning to seek care.
The primary care team treated patients in the urgent care settings, and chronic illnesses, with emphasis on health education and long term self-care, whereas the surgical, ophthalmological, and dental missions make the most immediate impact usually with the resolution of the problems. The most intangible impact is on the medical, pharmacy and dental students, who will be the future stakeholders of the healthcare infrastructure of Cambodia. As mentioned above, they benefit from the teaching and experiences of our physician-volunteers. As Cambodian American physicians, we serve as role models to the students as well as the local physicians in terms of patient care and the way health care providers interact with patients, with respect and dignity
I am proud that we have successfully accomplished this 11th Mission to one of the poorest provinces of the Kingdom of Cambodia. Our US Volunteers team consists of 109 volunteers of various specialties, general surgery, ophthalmology, anesthesia, primary care (ED, FM, IM, Peds, psychiatrics, Pain management), Dentists, Nurse practitioners, Registered Nurses, Medical students, undergraduates, (Premed and other fields), and lay (engineers, attorneys, Administrators, IT, retired military) from various states of the US, Australia, and Canada. It is joined by 80 local student volunteers, Buddhist monks, local Medical, Dental, Pharmacy, nursing students, who also serve as interpreters and 3 local physicians, including one Pediatric cardiologist from the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
From January 30 to February 4, 2023, Our mission treated 5,637 patiens, with a larger number of encounters as one patient has received multiple points of care, with FREE medications. Our mission enjoyed the support of the US Ambassador to Cambodia and the great partnership, support, and cooperation of all levels of the Cambodian government from the Ministry of Health, Provincial Health Department and Provincial authorities.
As a legacy of the Cambodian Genocide, Cambodia just started to rebuild the country from scratch, from the total devastation of the war, and still lags far behind other countries in SEA. Due to lack of resources available, it is so overwhelming to see so many patients, who have never had a chance to get the proper care they need. It is humbling to see so many late or severe disease conditions that are beyond the scope of our missions. Cambodia is still where volunteers can make a tremendous impact on the lives of so many. Our Surgical and Ophthalmology teams were based at the Provincial Referral Hospital and our main clinic at a primary school. With 4 days at 2 mobile clinics, we were able to reach out to serve more people in the more underserved areas.
Huge crowds were formed in the early hours of each morning to get a bracelet for entry on the first come, first serve basis, regardless of social status, religious or political affiliations. They had to endure many hours of waiting to be seen. While waiting in the sweltering heat and humidity, we provided them with water for hydration and French breads. It is sad and humbling that we cannot possibly see them all and had to turn away many, and that we were unable to treat all the conditions. But the people we serve are forever grateful and appreciative of our love and genuine caring for them.
CHPAA’s mission is multidisciplinary, encompassing surgery, ophthalmology, primary care, dental, pain management, vision, and education. We provided medical education to local students. CHPAA also provided the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) training program that teaches essential neonatal resuscitation and newborn skills to local midwives and obstetricians alike. Behind the numbers of patients and the impact on the lives of the patients served, this mission is a life-changing experience for all of volunteers, local and foreign.
CHPAA’s mission is uniquely different as it is led and organized by the Genocide surviving Cambodian American Health Care professionals. Through these missions, we served as role models for the local student volunteers, who are the future stakeholders of the Cambodian health care infrastructure.
At all times throughout the missions, CHPAA paid the utmost importance to the health, safety, and security of our volunteers. All volunteers have returned home safe and sound, bringing with them the memory of life-changing experiences.
We are starting to plan for the next mission in early 2024 with fundraising effort and recruitment of volunteers. The dates will be determined shortly. Please visit our website for updates at www.chpaa.org. We appreciate your joining us for the next mission. Thank you to Doximity Foundation for the sponsorship of some of our volunteers.